Side by Side
Who knows what led Keanu Reeves to dream up, and subsequently produce, this documentary about the advent of digital technology into the seventh art, and its role alongside, at least for now, photochemical film. Do people even wonder about it? Cinema lovers most probably do, and will enjoy Side by Side, which retraces the steps of film-making from its roots to the present day, discussing the legitimacy and the value of both formats, with insight into the industry from directors, cinematographers and other key personalities in the world of movies, all of whom attempt to figure out what it will be like in the future.
Side by Side focuses on digitalisation: its birth, progress and influence on the creation and preservation of films, compared to the classical manufactured process using celluloid. Reeves interviews well-established and emerging film-makers and actors, directors of photography, and colourists, asking them all to express their views on this phenomenon, whilst Side by Side quickly recaps film’s history through the milestones that changed it forever. The documentary is a well-built inlay of technical explanation on how the two different methods of acquiring and exhibiting images work, and a collection of points of view expressed by long-time contributors to the film industry or those who are new to the business, and who are inevitably affected by the never-ending technological evolution.
While certain directors such as David Lynch or Martin Scorsese prefer the ways of the past, promoting the importance of shooting in film, others like James Cameron or Robert Rodriguez are more conscious of the changes that have already taken place and those yet to pass, and are more willing to take advantage of technological progress, as the digital revolution allows for possibilities that were unthinkable just a few years ago.
The debate revolves around two major aspects. The cast speak at length about the contrast between a nostalgic attachment to the good old photochemical film creation, with all its flaws and restrictions, and the will to accept and make good use of new technology because of its potential. Secondly, they address the ease, malleability, and economy of the digital methods against the challenges given by the film.
Side by Side will challenge spectators, especially those who are passionate about cinema and are able to understand the many reasons why the adoption of either film or digital cameras has even been taken into account. The documentary leaves viewers with a question which cannot have only one answer: is film dead? It is really a choice after all.
Side by Side is released nationwide on 15th February 2013.
Watch the trailer for Side by Side here: